Compost or Soybean Meal?

darknovaJune 18, 2011

Come fall, I'd like to work on getting our lawn in better shape. It is quite thin and is being invaded more and more with crabgrass.

My plan is to overseed this fall and then apply corn gluten meal in the spring.

My question is, should I apply compost before I overseed or would just putting down soybean meal work? Our current soil is low in organic matter and is very sandy, so I imagine that compost would be the best, but at 12,000 square feet, that is a lot of compost! (assuming 1 yard per 1000 square feet). Soybean meal would be easier as I could do maybe 150 pounds worth but that's obviously not that much organic matter, so would that not really help much?

I'm not looking for a perfect lawn, just one that is more filled in and not thin.

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Compost would be the best as well as Leaf mold, shredded leaves, the grass clippings, about any finely shredded organic matter you can get, preferably for free.
Most all soybeans grown today are the genetically engineered ones so soybean meal may not be something you would want to consider.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2011 at 6:57AM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

My soil is not sandy but the soil I bring in is pure sand. I much prefer that to the cloddy topsoil we can get here. The best part of my back yard is 4 inches deep in pure, white sand. But when you cut into it, it looks charcoal black from years of organic care. I wanted to test it to see if the composition had changed, so I performed the soil test that kimmsr recommends. All the white sand fell straight to the bottom of the jar while the black organic material floated on the surface. There was nothing in the middle and the water was clear. Yes, my soil is sand.

This is a relatively good year for soy beans. 12 yards of compost in my area, delivered, would cost about $500 or $40 per 1,000 square feet. The local price of soybean meal varies (as with compost) but in my neighborhood it is $15 for 50-pounds. At an application rate of 30 pounds per 1,000 square feet, the amount of soy would be 360 pounds costing $108 or $9 per 1,000 square feet. For roughly the same cost as the compost I could apply soy 5 times.

The value of soy comes from feeding the soil microbes. The value of compost comes from providing microbes. If you provide microbes and then do not feed them, then you have done nothing much more than mulch the ground. My strong preference is to feed the microbes you have, allow them to populate the soil, and benefit from their organic presence in the soil.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2011 at 10:05PM
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If you know little to nothing about genetic engineering and the problems that creates then you probably will not mind polluting the environment further by using products that have been genetically engineered. It may in fqct be too late to stop the pollution of this experiment because many of the source seeds are being contaminated with the genes that were never supposed to escape into the environment.
The problem is we have no idea what these genes might do, or are doing since no one has really looked at the long term affects they could make.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2011 at 8:18AM
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david_tx(7a North Texas)

I don't understand how my using soybean meal pollutes the environment. I don't think these dangerous genes are somehow escaping from the ground beans.

Am I supposed to boycott soybean meal simply as a form of protest?

    Bookmark   July 5, 2011 at 3:26PM
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Good grief, yesterday I was reading a book Teaming with Microbes, The Organic Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web and I came to this group to see if anyone else had read it. I haven't done a search yet, but saw this posting. In the book, they actually recommend using soybean meal(along with other things of course)on lawns, so I assume there is a divergence of opinion on this subject. Frankly, I am totally confused.

This is a very complicated subject to understand if you do not have a degree in this subject, but hopefully everyone remembers that we are all trying to accomplish the same thing and I can't believe anyone on this forum is sitting around twirling their mustache, wondering how they can next pollute the environment.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2011 at 5:38PM
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Many people are unaware that most of the soybeans are genetically engineered or even that much of our food is genetically engineered today. Since the only way to end the growing of that kind of crop is to not buy it that is the choice you need to make.
The genes introduced into those crops were not supposed to migrate to non genetically engineered crops but they did. Will spreading that material on your lawn cause further spread of those genes? No one knows because no one is looking to see if that will happen.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2011 at 11:49AM
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david_tx(7a North Texas)

If Wikipedia can be believed, 93% of soy beans, 86% of corn, and 93% of cotton produced in the US is genetically modified. Every organic gardener in the US could participate in the boycott and we wouldn't put a dent in the statistics.

Perhaps genetic engineering is wrong, I don't know. For the purposes of this thread, I'm willing to assume that it's a horrible threat to our civilization. What I do know is that I'm powerless to stop it. I also know that I have no idea where to buy non genetically modified cattle feed.

So, I have two options. I can use the soybean, corn, and cottonseed meal that I find at the local feed store or I can go back to my chemical program. Which is the lesser of the two evils?

    Bookmark   July 6, 2011 at 12:07PM
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We are not powerless to stop the spread of genetically engineered organisms, unless we give up. People in other parts of the world have done so. An article in the current issue, August/September 2011, of Organic Gardening Magazine recounts just such an effort in India. "Food at the Frontline, A Conversation with Vandana Shiva, Ph.D" on page 76 may give some of us some insight.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2011 at 6:57AM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

So, I have two options. I can use the soybean, corn, and cottonseed meal that I find at the local feed store or I can go back to my chemical program. Which is the lesser of the two evils?

I believe anyone who wants to can define themselves out of an organic program. If you believe that using non organic seed to grow corn is a violation of organicity (?), then don't do it. Personally I am looking more specifically for the protein and carbohydrates that come from food and CANNOT BE FOUND in a chemical program.

If you want a green lawn without chemical hassles, then just use what you can find at the feed store.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2011 at 9:32PM
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Dang kimmsr. All I ever read from your posts is some condescending remark about what someone is trying to do.

You tell people that in order to have a weed free lawn, you need to have a lush, thick lawn. Duh.

Now ppl are going organic and adding grain to their lawn and you want to kill them for that too?

How about telling ppl what they should be doing(besides your copy/paste) soil test because that doesn't help people IMPROVE anything). Don't tell people to do a soil test and put it in a jar if you aren't willing to help them once they find the results and just choose to kill them for using organic materials.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2011 at 8:30PM
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By the way... I sprayed round up on 6,000 sq ft this fall, dropped starter fert, and tons of Milorganite all in a matter of about 6 weeks. My new lawn is looking pretty lush.


    Bookmark   September 17, 2011 at 8:53PM
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ZoysiaSod(6a/6b St.Lou TranZone)

Silver8ack wrote:
Dang kimmsr. All I ever read from your posts is some condescending remark about what someone is trying to do.

You tell people that in order to have a weed free lawn, you need to have a lush, thick lawn. Duh.

Now ppl are going organic and adding grain to their lawn and you want to kill them for that too?

How about telling ppl what they should be doing(besides your copy/paste) soil test because that doesn't help people IMPROVE anything). Don't tell people to do a soil test and put it in a jar if you aren't willing to help them once they find the results and just choose to kill them for using organic materials.

Oh, I think Kimmsr's posts are valuable and helpful. I enjoy reading them.

But Silver8ack, good luck with your new lawn. It sounds like you're doing a good job making it a lush, appealing green space.

I noticed you mentioned you applied a whole lot of Milorganite, which is a brandname (I think) for "biosolids," a.k.a. treated sewer sludge. I'm no expert, though--just a novice--so maybe Milorganite and biosolids are different things.

Paul Tukey, author of the "Organic Lawn Care Manual," has used treated sewer sludge in the past, but nowadays he writes that he has reservations about biosolids:

"Depending on your point of view, biosolids are either the answer to one of humankind's greatest waste challenges or....[they are not]. They're the material left behind after human waste passes through a treatment facility. Further treated or composted, they're also the main ingredients in millions of pounds of lawn fertilizers and soil amendments."

"In the community of certified organic gardening, biosolids and their by-products are not allowed. Regulations adopted by the federal government in 2002 specifically eliminate biosolids along with genetic engineering and irradiation as components of any food and fertilizers labeled organic."
[End quote]

By the way, this probably explains why David Mellor's "Lawn Bible" lists sewer sludge as "organic." His book was published in 2002 or 2003, just as the government classified sewer sludge / biosolids as Not Organic. It sounds like he wrote his copy just before the feds came down with their decision.

Writing more recently in 2006, Tukey says the EPA still "steadfastly approves of biosolid fertilizers as a dramatic improvement on past practices and has lobbied to have many forms of biosolids delcared organic."[End quote]

So the goverment has more than one head. Maybe the EPA had a lot of Bush appointees? Remember that TV commercial back then with the little boy talking to his mother and asking with a smile, "Can I have more arsenic in my water mommy?" Hard to forget that commercial [chuckle]

Tukey writes:
"Opponents of biosolids point to reports of contamination with various toxic substances, including heavy metals and nonbiodegradable PCBs, a group of known cancer-causing compounds."

Ellen Z. Harrison, director of Cornell University's Waste Management Institute, says, "Many of these other materials never, ever break down. I don't feel enough testing has been done. Very little data exists about the long-term effects of biosolids and land treatment."

She continues, "I have not personally tried them on lawns, but I can see where biosolid composts could make your lawn grow well," she says. "If I were near retirement age, maybe I would put it on my lawn. If I had young children crawling around on the lawn who would be far more susceptible to potential contaminants, I would have a different view."

There's more about treated sewer slude in this thread:
See the December 21st post in that thread.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2011 at 8:51AM
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ZoysiaSod(6a/6b St.Lou TranZone)

Interestingly, I just learned that Tukey's web site www.SafeLawns.ORG has as one of its sponsors Milorganite. The Milorganite ad banner on Tukey's SafeLawns.ORG site links to

In the interests of presenting all sides, here's what the web site has to say:

[Quote] ========
"Milorganite products belong to a class of materials called biosolids. Biosolids are the residual microbes that have digested nutrients out of sewage waste streams.

These EPA regulations define the use of biosolids as a fertilizer at two distinct tiers. The first tier is using biosolids as a fertilizer on non-food crops (lawns, grain fields, and the like).

The second tier is the so-called Exceptional Quality or EQ definition. This allows biosolids that contain exceptionally low amounts of heavy metals and pathogens to be used on food crops such as vegetable gardens, fruit trees and similar locations."

"All fertilizers, both organic and synthetic, contain some heavy metals. In fact, plants need some heavy metals, such as zinc and copper and molybdenum, for normal, healthy growth."
[End of Quote] ========

Zinc, copper, and molybdenum aren't the only heavy metals in exsitence. Some other heavy metals are lead, mercury, and nickel. I don't know if plants need these.

I wonder if all fertilizers contain some amounts of PCBs? Anyone know?

Anyway, so you can make up your own mind, you can read more about what the Milorganite web site has to say about safety at:

Does anyone use Milorganite in their vegetable garden?

    Bookmark   December 27, 2011 at 11:07AM
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ZoysiaSod(6a/6b St.Lou TranZone)

If you look at the image banner being used to advertise Milorganite on the web site, you'll see 3 lines of words:

I made the image above clickable so you can visit the Milorganite web site, and learn more about it from the fine folks at Milorganite.

The top line simply says "ORGANIC NITROGEN"

The middle line says "Milorganite"

The bottom line says "FERTILIZER"

I'm just a novice, not an expert, so I'm guessing that the government's rules adopted in 2002 don't allow Milorganite to call itself an "Organic FERTILIZER."

However, the federal government does seem to be allowing them to use the words "Organic Nitrogen" in their advertising.

A regular Joe might think, though, that he just scored some Organic Fertilizer, maybe??? I know when I first saw some Milorganite at a big-box store a few months ago, I thought it was Organic Fertilizer.

I wonder if the government classifies Milorganite as "Organic-Based" fertilizer, which is different than "Organic" fertilizer.

All this is just speculation on my part, because, like I said, I'm just a novice who has been learning about grass only since June.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2011 at 8:02PM
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Without question Milorganite is biosolids, treated sewage. Some years ago, when Milwaukee had some of its industries sending all of their waste into Milwaukees waste stream, untreated, Milorganite was found to contain high levels of many heavy metals that made it really unuseable, anywhere. That can still happen in some biosolid treatment plants although Milwaukee now requires industrial plants to pre treat the waste they send out to remove these contaminants.
That the organic standards allow the use of grains contaminated by Genetic Engineering but not biosoilids free of contaminants says more about the failure of the people setting those standards then about what is allowed to be a "certified organic" grower.
Silver8ack apparently does not quite get that I try to get people to think, rather then simply accept what they see written here. If what I write causes much discussion I have succeeded.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2011 at 7:26AM
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ZoysiaSod(6a/6b St.Lou TranZone)

Kimmsr, thank you for your always thought-provoking comments. Are you saying you feel comfortable enough with Milorganite today that you wouldn't hesitate to use it on your lawn?

What about the higher EQ standard? Is it safe enough for vegetable gardens?

Also, how about *Organic Fertilizers* like alfalfa meal pellets, soybean meal, and corn gluten meal? Wouldn't they have lower levels (or possibly near non-existent levels) of heavy metals like lead and mercury than even the EQ standard of Milorganite?

    Bookmark   December 28, 2011 at 9:01AM
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Kimmsr, help me with this statement and connect some dots for me.
"Some years ago, when Milwaukee had some of its industries sending all of their waste into Milwaukees waste stream, untreated, Milorganite was found to contain high levels of many heavy metals that made it really unuseable, anywhere."

So industries sending "untreated" "waste" into Milwaukees "waste stream" somehow led to the discovery that Milorganite, treated at their biosolid treatment plant, contained many heavy metals that made Milorganite "really unuseable". Finding heavy metals in the waste stream was the impetus to check the content of Milorganite? Really?

    Bookmark   December 28, 2011 at 4:57PM
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Some research on the web about Milorganite provided me with what I know about the stuff. What I found was that as the breweries slowed production battery manufacturers started to add their waste to the stream and that waste had heavy metals in it that caused contamination, to the point that it could be unsafe. The Milwaukee Sewerage Authority required industries to pretreat their waste, removing those heavy metals, just as many other similar operations require industries to do in other areas of the world.
I have seen many people post much misinformation over the years often simply repeating information that cannot be supported such as Milorganite causes ALS, Lou Gehrigs Disease. I would encourage you to do your own research, providing you rely on good information and not other misinformation.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2011 at 7:38AM
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ZoysiaSod(6a/6b St.Lou TranZone)

Here's a link to a page from Cornell University's Waste Management Institute about Milorganite:

In that link, there is this passage:

"Is it safe?
Safe is a relative term. People have different views of
how much risk is acceptable. Milorganite and some
other sludge products meeting certain criteria are
approved by the US Environmental Protection Agency
(USEPA) for distribution for any use, including home
gardens. However, some people remain concerned
about the safety and environmental impacts of possible
contaminants, many of which are not tested. In
particular, pharmaceuticals and many toxic organic
chemicals are present in sludges but are not regulated
or monitored."

"Can it be used on food crops?
Under USEPA rules, Milorganite can be used without
restriction. Current rules in New York State (part
360.5) are more restrictive. Based on NYS rules,
a waiting period of 38 months should be observed
between application of any sludge product, including
Milorganite, and planting of food crops. NYS rules
require a label for sludge products stating the type
of waste material and the recommended safe uses,
restrictions on use and application rates."

"What are the chemicals of concern?
Metals: Levels of the nine metals regulated by USEPA
in Milorganite are well below the maximum levels
allowed. Data are available for a few other metals. Iron
concentrations are relatively high (4-6%), a property
Milorganite promotes for greening lawns.

Organic Chemicals: Milorganite is tested for
some organic chemicals including PCBs and
dioxins (a group of highly toxic organic chemicals),
polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs which are
a group of chemicals that have properties similar to
PCBs), as well as the 114 organic chemicals that fall
under the "priority pollutants" designation (a group
of industrial water pollutants identified in the 1970s
by USEPA).
Concentrations of organic chemicals in Milorganite
are lower than in many sludges (probably due to
evaporation during the heat treatment step)."
[End of Quote]

There's more info in the Cornel U. link shown above.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2011 at 9:20AM
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ZoysiaSod(6a/6b St.Lou TranZone)

Here's an interesting article written by Don Behm of the Journal Sentinel newspaper in Milwaukee. Here's a link to the newspaper article which was just published in October of this year:

I highlighted some particularly interesting points in the article below.

[Milwaukee's Sewarage District] may give surplus Milorganite to farmers

Sales of bagged Milorganite are not keeping pace with round-the-clock production, so the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District [MMSD] is proposing to give up to 10,000 tons of surplus fertilizer free to farmers this year, under a contract to be considered this month by the district's commission.

The contract would enable the district to distribute up to 10,000 tons of bulk granular fertilizer free to farmers in each of the next two years if needed to reduce unsold stockpiles, said Jeff Spence, Milorganite sales and marketing director at the district. Spence said his goal is to sell the extra 10,000 tons and eliminate future giveaways.

Veolia Water Milwaukee LLC, private operator of the district's sewage treatment plants, regional sewers, deep tunnels and Milorganite factory, would be paid up to $297,000 over the three years to manage the program, under the proposal.

Though MMSD forecasts retail sales of 36,000 tons of bagged Milorganite in 2011, the district will produce around 49,000 tons of the heat-dried sludge fertilizer this year in its factory at the Jones Island sewage treatment plant, Spence said.

Giving away 10,000 tons would free up storage space inside silos on Jones Island.

"We can't stop producing it," Spence said. A never-ending load of sewage sludge - made up of protozoa and bacteria that digest nutrients in sewage - is removed daily from the end of the Jones Island treatment process.

After water is squeezed out of the musky-smelling sludge, it is dried to make Milorganite, an 85-year-old brand. Dryer temperatures of 840 degrees to 1,200 degrees kill any pathogens in the sludge.

Milorganite is sold in bags to homeowners, golf course managers and lawn care companies. The district's 2011 budget forecasts $7.7 million in revenue from sales.

There has been growth in retail sales in Canada, Spence said. Even so, MMSD has not succeeded in developing wholly new markets for its organic fertilizer.

One company had considered burning the dried sludge to generate electricity but that did not work out, Spence said. A request to market Milorganite as a deer repellent that could be used on flowers and shrubs died within the federal regulatory bureaucracy nearly three years ago.

In recent years MMSD has been giving away bulk fertilizer to Milwaukee County parks and school districts, but they do not need enough of it to significantly dent the surplus.

Until new markets come along, the district is looking for additional opportunities to give Milorganite away in bulk that would not conflict with its retail customers, Spence said. MMSD opted for agricultural use to help empty out the silos.

MMSD Executive Director Kevin Shafer started the program earlier this year when he authorized spending no more than $99,056 in 2011 to distribute bulk Milorganite to farmers. Veolia Water subcontracted with Veolia Environmental Services to find farms and apply the fertilizer.

The proposed contract amount of no more than $297,000 will pay for additional distribution this year and in 2012 and 2013, if necessary, Spence said.

Cost to the district will not exceed $13.20 per ton. Landfill disposal would cost the district around $40 a ton, according to Spence.

Farmers can take advantage of the nitrogen in Milorganite, said Earl Wilhelm, manager of the program for Veolia Environmental Services.

One Ozaukee County farmer applied 1,600 tons to fields this year and is willing to spread all that is available on other fields in Ozaukee and Sheboygan counties after corn is harvested this month, Wilhelm said. The farmer would get 8,400 more tons to meet the district's 2011 goal.

No other farms are needed this year."

[End of Quote]

Again, here's a link to the Journal Sentinel newspaper:

    Bookmark   December 29, 2011 at 9:38AM
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ZoysiaSod(6a/6b St.Lou TranZone)

Milorganite has a Facebook page at

Customers writing there on Facebook are very enthusiastic about the Milorganite they used on their lawns.

Wow, the Milorganite bags really are attractive, too.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2011 at 9:50AM
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    Bookmark   December 29, 2011 at 10:06AM
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ZoysiaSod(6a/6b St.Lou TranZone)

Here's a link to an older thread about Milorganite on the site from 2005:

I found the following posting by "Username_5" in that older thread particular interesting, but I don't know if Username_5 is accurate or not about Milwaukee's rain water system and sewage system being the same system.

Username_5 wrote the following about Milorganite and Milwaukee's Sewage District operations:

> I consider it fairly progressive waste disposal. They break down the human waste biologically, the critters go through their normal cycles and once complete their carcasses are heated to the point where no bad organism could survive and the organic matter resulting is sold inexpensively as [Milorganite] fertilzer/soil conditioner.

Seems like a much better solution than what Milwaukee does everytime it rains which is dump the raw sewage into lake Michigan.(Milwaukee's rain water system is one and the same with their sewage system so rainwater exceeds their storage/processing capacity). Maybe by selling Milorganite they can eventually afford to seperate the two systems.
[End of Quote]

    Bookmark   December 29, 2011 at 10:12AM
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ZoysiaSod(6a/6b St.Lou TranZone)

Thanks Grassboro. That was a seriously good link. I just now saw it.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2011 at 5:15AM
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Since those of us on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan have benfetied from Milwaukees linked storm and sewage system several times over the years and have cleaned up our beaches when deluges of rain have overwhelmed that system. It once was common for storm water systems and sewage systems to be linked, Lansing, Portage, Grand Rapids, and some other cities along the Grand River still periodically dump untreated sewage into the Grand River when torrential rains cause those systems to be overwhelmed. They are supposed to be fixing that so the storm water is kept seperate from sewage.
Some people utilize really old information to support their position.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2011 at 7:13AM
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ZoysiaSod(6a/6b St.Lou TranZone)

Wow, this is a sobering article from 2008 whose link I'll paste from the other thread:

Very informative article that extensively quotes Anthony G. Hay, Cornell associate professor of microbiology and director of Cornell's Institute for Comparative and Environmental Toxicology.

This guy knows a whole lotta stuff about sewage sludge / biosolids used on lawns and farms.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2011 at 10:07AM
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ZoysiaSod(6a/6b St.Lou TranZone)

As critical as the above article is on biosolids being used as lawn and farn fertilizers, the following article from 2010 is devastating, I think. Of course, I'm just a novice, not an expert.

Researchers at Arizona State University, including one named Halden, studied biosolids very recently.


"As Halden explains, certain classes of chemicals possess physical characteristics that make them likelier to resist breakdown during wastewater treatment. Of particular concern are hydrophobic organic chemicals. As their name implies, such chemicals are 'afraid' of water and preferentially attach themselves to particulate matter, thereby becoming part of the primary and secondary sludge. This characteristic trait limits the availability of hydrophobic chemicals to aerobic and anaerobic microorganisms during sewage treatment and sludge digestion.

Rather than being broken down, such chemicals can become enriched in municipal biosolids by several orders of magnitude. Through this process, substances in heavy usage, like HPV chemicals, can accumulate as pollutants in municipal sludge to parts per million (ppm) concentrations. "It's like vacuum cleaning your home," says Halden. "When the carpet is clean, the vacuum bag holds a concentrated burden of dirt. By anology, the generation of biosolids enriched in non-biodegradable pollutants are the price you pay when purifying domestic sewage for water reuse."

Here's a link to the full article that's worth reading:

    Bookmark   December 30, 2011 at 7:56PM
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ZoysiaSod(6a/6b St.Lou TranZone)

I don't know if this is accurate, but here's a quote
from this page at:

"Milwaukee, WI. (2007). City spent over $4
million to scrape tons of Class A sewage sludge
"Milorganite" off 30 public parks and
playgrounds because it was contaminated with
toxic, carcinogenic PCBs (polychloride biphenyl
ethers). Some PCB levels in the sludge exceeded
EPA superfund limits. Three more incidents of
PCB contamination followed."


Here's a very easy to understand article from
Food Safety News, and really interesting:

    Bookmark   December 30, 2011 at 9:58PM
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ZoysiaSod(6a/6b St.Lou TranZone)

Holy expletive. The Center for Media and Democracy has this to say about the U.S. Composting Council (USCC):

[Here's the link]:

"The US Composting Council (USCC) is a front group for dumping sewage sludge onto gardens and farms. It sponsors the ironically titled International Compost Awareness Week; the irony is that the buyer of compost is not "aware" that USCC puts their seal on sewage sludge-derived "compost." It describes itself as a national trade and professional organization with over 600 members including Synagro, compost manufacturers, local government, equipment suppliers and others. It promotes "compost" manufactured with sewage sludge.[1] As a promoter of "biosolids," the sludge industry PR term for sewage sludge dumped on farms and gardens, it works closely with BioCycle magazine, Water Environment Federation, Kellogg Garden Products, and other promoters of growing food in sewage sludge."

[End of quote]

Further down the page in the link above, the Center says this:


"USCC Behind 'Compost Awareness Week'
International Compost Awareness Week (ICAW) is a yearly PR campaign by the US Composting Council to promote dumping sewage sludge on gardens and farms. Jeff [Z.] of the giant Los Angeles, CA, Inland Empire Utility Agency (IEUA) coordinates the program for the USCC. IEUA supplies the sewage sludge "compost" that is resold by the Kellogg Garden Products company."

"In April 2010, the U.S. Composting Council sent a letter of support to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission in favor of its sewage sludge compost giveaway program.[3] In the letter, the U.S. Composting Council says sewage sludge composts "provide many benefits while being safe for use."


"Seal of Testing Assurance (STA)

One of USCC's main programs is its Seal of Testing Assurance (STA) for compost products.[4] The STA program, developed in 2000, requires regular testing of compost products by "certified" labs. The testing is relatively minimal and the standards are designed to allow for certification of products containing sewage sludge."

[End of quote]

Now the last sentence above unnerved me, because a local St. Louis company from which I intend to buy 3 cubic yards of compost later this Spring promotes on their web site that they are STA-certified.

On the phone, the local St. Louis company (which I will NOT name here) says they do NOT use treated sewage sludge (aka "biosolids") in their compost. I sure hope that's true, or I'll have to find another source of compost this spring.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2011 at 10:31PM
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The link supplied makes a reference to spreading biosolids in Orange County, North Carolina. This is where I have lived all my life, Chapel Hill/Carrboro, NC. Now for those that do not know, Chapel Hill and Carrboro NC (largest populated area of Orange county) is the mecca of tree hugging ultra-liberals in the South. For example, when George McGovern ran for president only one county in all of the states south of the Mason Dixon line voted for him. That county was Orange county. I cannot begin to tell you how well educated (UNC, Duke) and ultra-liberal in all things this area is.

Now if OWASA ( is cool with spreading biosolids in this area then the debate is over and done for me. At least as it relates to this area.

"OWASA recognizes that some uncertainty still exists about the effects of certain biosolids constituents. We support further study to determine these impacts. However, OWASA also firmly believes that recycling biosolids through a properly managed program in strict compliance with State and Federal permit requirements is a safe, cost effective, and environmentally responsible way of managing this inevitable by-product of the community."

Key phrases for me are "properly managed program in strict compliance" and "inevitable by-product of the community".

    Bookmark   December 30, 2011 at 10:47PM
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ZoysiaSod(6a/6b St.Lou TranZone)

Well, like I said, I don't think this is a liberal or conservative issue. Last I checked both conservatives and liberals are humans :-)

You mentioned the Mason Dixon Line, so let me say that it's amazing to me that one of the greatest presidents America has ever had (Bill Clinton) was followed by one of the worst: George Bush :-)

Just like this isn't a liberal-conservative issue, I don't think it's a North-South issue. Clinton and Bush are both from south of the Mason Dixon Line, I think. Shucks, I really don't even know where the line is. Missouri is a melting pot of South and North :-) Lots of southerners and northerners both live in Missouri.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2011 at 11:02PM
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ZoysiaSod(6a/6b St.Lou TranZone)

I hope you don't mind me adding that my favorite candidate for 2012 is Texas Republican Ron Paul. My second favorite is Democrat Barrack Obama. If the Republicans don't nominate Ron Paul, I'll vote for Obama.

Maybe sewage sludge applied to lawns and farms should became a presidential campaign issue.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2011 at 11:13PM
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ZoysiaSod(6a/6b St.Lou TranZone)

From August 2010:

"In Kern County, [California's] breadbasket, a county ban on the land application of processed sewage sludge from Los Angeles was upheld by the U.S. Ninth District Court in a precedent-setting case. (The U.S. Supreme Court refused to take Los Angeles' appeal in June.)

Inadequate and outdated

Meanwhile, communities like San Francisco that have permitted its use have been doing so under federal regulations. Some independent experts, however, say that the U.S. Environment Protection Agency's regulatory rule, to which San Francisco is abiding, is inadequate and outdated.
"The EPA rule came out in 1993 and was based on science from the 1970s and 80s," said Murray McBride, a soil chemist and head of the Cornell University Waste Management Institute.

McBride, who studies biosolids, said that many other chemical compounds appearing in the waste are not routinely tested before land application. The EPA requires testing for nine heavy metals, but not dangerous and long-lasting chemicals like DDT and PCBs, which have been phased out for more than three decades but still appear in the environment.

Nor do the testing requirements take into account a host of emerging chemicals of concern that have been introduced into the environment in higher concentrations over time, like endocrine-disrupting flame retardants, phthalates and the antibacterial agent triclosan.

McBride said part of the problem with processed sewage sludge is that you cannot separate out the bad chemicals from those that have value, like nitrogen and phosphorus."

    Bookmark   December 31, 2011 at 6:26AM
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ZoysiaSod(6a/6b St.Lou TranZone)

Grassboro wrote:
> ....when George McGovern ran for president only one county in all of the states south of the Mason Dixon line voted for him.

I don't think McGovern's loss in 1972 was a South-North issue. Wikipedia says McGovern won only one state in the country in 1972: Massachussetts :-)

Let's try to stay on topic :-)

Also from the

In 2009, the EPA released an updated national survey of the sewage sludge emanating from 80 of the country's 3,500 public wastewater treatment plants. It found what opponents had feared: flame retardants in all but one sample, pharmaceutical residues in more than half and 27 metals in virtually all samples. Antimony, a toxic metal that affects humans in ways similar to arsenic poisoning, was found in a majority of samples.

One aspect of the study that stood out to McBride was the variations in chemical concentrations and heavy metals across samples. That means an individual's exposure could be really high, he said.

"An individual who picks this stuff up, they're applying this on rather small gardens at high rates of application. These are levels that amount to 50 to 300 tons per acre equivalent," McBride said.

Such concentrations are far beyond what would be allowed on farmland because of restrictions governing runoff in the Clean Water Act."

[End of quote]

Now for some really hard-hitting points:

"We typically get little pieces [of information] at a time and sometimes our initial viewpoint on chemicals is flat out wrong," he said. "Flame retardants were used for 30 years on the assumption that they were in plastics and would never break down. Then we started finding them in wildlife and humans. The highest levels are found in children because children have more intimate contact with dust."

A growing body of evidence is now showing that flame retardants disrupt the nervous system, especially problematic in the developing bodies of fetuses and infants. In 2005, the EPA initiated a phase-out of some types of flame retardants present in furniture, mattresses and other items in the home after a decade of data showed that the chemicals were accumulating in breast milk.

Although individual sources of exposure may be small, Hale said the accumulation of chemicals like flame retardants from dust in homes, gardens spread with biosolids and food would be significant. Flame retardants take an eternity to degrade, Hale said.

"You can hit substantial levels in soil when you apply it multiple times. The second time you apply you just double it," he said. "They assumed that everything but the heavy metals broke down. That's a naive viewpoint."

    Bookmark   December 31, 2011 at 11:58AM
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I see my attempt at trying to describe the environmental climate here in Orange county NC did not work for you. I only used the "ultra-liberal" description (with the McGovern election information as evidence) and the concentration of universities here as an attempt to convey the point that the vast majority of the population here would be all over and against the use of biosolids if there was even the smallest chance that this use was not a relatively safe and acceptable. I had no intention for someone to extrapolated my example to politics, North-South, etc. I guess one may have to live here to fully appreciate my example and point.

As to staying on topic, in three of your last four post you not only mention politics but offer your opinion about it.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2011 at 2:21PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Poor Darknova (the OP on this topic). He set it up so he would receive emails when people reply to his question. Now he has an inbox full of off topic junk mail.

I'm not a GardenWeb moderator, but I am a mod on other forums. I've seen online forums (not just gardening) come and go. One of the fastest ways to generate forum apathy and even anger is to allow topics to switch issues in mid stream. If the topic drifts to health issues, politics, or religion, it just goes downhill faster. If you want to maintain any kind of integrity in the Organic Lawn Forum, this discussion about politics needs to end. GardenWeb already has forums for topics like this. I would also suggest starting a new topic on Milorganite if you want to discuss that. Before you start a new one in this forum, note that the topic has been beaten to death in other forums.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2011 at 6:04PM
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ZoysiaSod(6a/6b St.Lou TranZone)

Umm, I checked the other threads. Lots of new information about Milorganite was presented in this thread.

But I agree with you that the political talk has got to end.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2011 at 6:56PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Nobody will come to this thread looking for Milorganite information because Milorganite is not in the title. Someone doing a search for the word would find this thread but they might be distracted by the actual content up front.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2011 at 7:42PM
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